Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

“I Will Not Embrace The Chaos”: A Letter From a Former Wauwatosa Teacher

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By Scarlett Johnson

“Sixth-graders would define different types of sexual activity, “vaginal, oral, and anal sex and other forms of sexual (masturbation).” The same grade would learn about “a range of identities related to sexual orientation (e.g. heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, two-spirit, asexual. Pansexual).”

My daughter is eleven years old. It is hard to imagine that if I were a resident of the Wauwatosa School District, in just a few short months, the above “standard” would be applied to my sweet little girl. I feel nothing but outrage, as I imagine my daughter, seated next to several boys (sorry, I should say ‘persons with a penis’), as she’s told to demonstrate her understanding of “anal sex” to a co-ed cohort. My blood boils at the thought of her using a whiteboard for an interactive demonstration about oral sex or masturbation. This is sexual abuse in my opinion. Thankfully, this is also the opinion of many parents AND educators as well.

As it turns out, not all educators are giddy at the thought of teaching little kids about two-spirit transgender identities and the how-tos of mutual masturbation. One such courageous former Wauwatosa teacher, Jim Krause, reached out to me. With his consent, I now share his letter:

The text said, “Did you see the news?” “No,” I replied. “What happened?” “The district admin gave an illegal contract to AVID.”

Then, PING! “Did you see *Teacher M* is in the news? He was talking to kids about sex and had felonies?

PING! “Check out these fights at Tosa?!”

Another month, another text; it was almost like clockwork. All the stories were about criminality within the Wauwatosa School district. But in August, a different kind of text came in:

PING! “Wauwatosa School District proposes new sex education curriculum.”

Why were these texts getting sent to me? From 2017 to 2021, I taught in the Wauwatosa School District for three years as a Spanish teacher at Whitman Middle School and one year as a Civics teacher at Vel R Phillips Juvenile Correctional Center.

Let me give you my credentials:
-Nine-year teacher in Wisconsin public schools (three different districts)
-Hold a lifetime DPI license to teach Spanish
-UW-Oshkosh Education graduate
-Led sessions on student engagement
-Never had a formal parental complaint in my entire career

Despite these credentials, like many new teachers, I struggled for the first few years. In my 3rd year, a fellow Spanish teacher told me, “Embrace the Chaos.” It was her way of saying, use middle schoolers’ energy, excitement, and curiosity to your advantage. It was then things started to click for me.

I thought about this sage advice upon researching and viewing social media posts on the new Comprehensive Sexuality Education curriculum adopted by the Wauwatosa School District on August 22nd, 2022. My initial thoughts likely differed from the average person, sure, I was filled with shock and disgust, but as a former 6th-grade teacher, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What would this curriculum look like in a middle school classroom?” I am sure many parents are asking themselves the same question.

The best way I can answer this question is to describe a 6th-grade Spanish Unit introductory lesson plan and then apply this model to sex education. I promise there will be no verb conjugation charts or subjunctive-I wouldn’t want you to have nightmares. Bear with me.

The second unit in 6th grade Spanish at Wauwatosa is School Unit. How did we introduce, present, and teach those concepts as teachers?

First, we would start with basic vocabulary around classes and school objects- la clase de inglés, las ciencias, el lápiz, el libro, etc. We’d practice pronunciation and maybe look around and point to classroom objects. Most units in any subject revolve around a set list of vocabulary.

Second, students would practice with a district-provided set of flashcards and make their own slapjack game.

Third, we often played a game with whiteboards to ensure our visual learners were covered. Students pair up in teams of two, and in the first round, I say and pick a school object; students get 1 minute to draw the object on a whiteboard. The group with the best drawing wins, then they, as a group, get to come to the front and pick a new word and are the judges for the next round. (If you can envision this activity, it is fun, competitive, and engaging. I’ve taught this activity to other teachers, and they loved it.) We would finish the day with students forming a line, answering ¿Cuál es tu clase favorita?, and then exiting the classroom.

If you’d ask me for a lesson plan, it would look like this:

GOAL: Introduce/Learn school vocabulary- Classes and School Objects

1. Introduce vocabulary with handout and pronunciation practice- 15 minutes
2. Flash cards with Slapjack handout- 10-15 minutes
3. Whiteboard game -15-20 minutes
4. Exit Slip-Answer verbally:?Cual es tu clase favorita? 3 minutes

To reiterate, this is the plan for day 1 of the school unit. The curriculum is covered simply by demonstrating an understanding of some basic vocabulary and answering one of the main questions of the unit. We haven’t even touched grammar, individual or group projects, or assessments.

The question is, how did I get there in just this lesson? As the teacher, I used the approved district curriculum in activity one but with some play on it- looking around the room for objects and having specific students verbalize each vocabulary word.

Activity two is district approved, but I, as the teacher, created a Slapjack vocabulary game to be used in upcoming lessons.

Activity three is 100% teacher-created. Another teacher teaching the same class might not use the activity.

Activity four is pretty simple, but again, as the teacher, I decide what we, as a class, will do.

As a UW-Oshkosh education graduate and nine-year teacher at Wisconsin public schools, this is the way. The Wauwatosa school district dictates the learning objectives, and the teacher has about 80% autonomy on teaching said goals. Imagine the micromanaging by the administration if every minute of every lesson was planned for a teacher.

As a Wauwatosa Middle School teacher, I wasn’t asked to provide daily or weekly lesson plans. Throughout the years, district administration and Wisconsin DPI determine a class’s core objectives and summative assessments. In the case of Wauwatosa, it was up to the teacher’s discretion how to meet those objectives.

With that in mind, let’s apply the Sex Education Curriculum to the same 6th-grade level classroom using the same lesson plan. These are the objectives for the class:

First, we would write down the vaginal, oral, and anal sex definitions. The district would give the descriptions, and the teacher would relay them. Not sure how looking around the room for oral sex would work out, so we’ll just skip that part.

Next, students would practice with flashcards and make a slapjack game by writing down the definitions again. Research shows writing down descriptions helps reinforce understanding and recall of terms. Furthermore, all districts push for working in “diverse” groups. I don’t know how students quizzing their partners in class on vaginal sex would go, but that is the objective.

Then the students must engage in the interactive phase using whiteboards. A student would draw a term and get to work. Imagine the horror of an eleven-year-old girl as she realizes she picked the term ‘anal sex.’ Now, she must demonstrate knowledge of this term on the whiteboard. Excuse me as I hold back bile. This is sick.

Finally, imagine students as they are asked by the teacher on the exit ticket, “What is a pansexual?” “What is a two-spirit?” “Can you describe vaginal intercourse?” “What is oral sex?” Disgraceful.

As I write out this brief lesson plan description, I cannot help but get a little emotional. The Wauwatosa school district can put the curriculum label on something, but it does not make it valuable. It does not make it any less criminal, and it does not make it anything less than pedophilia. Why are we, as adults allowing this to our children?

I read the letter to the administration, written by many former colleagues, calling for implementing comprehensive sex education. I know on a very personal level some of the teachers who signed the letter. In it, they smear any community members who’ve made comments as “bigoted,” “transphobic,” and “queerphobic.”

Take it from a former educator; Once a teacher has embraced this level of hatred for opposing viewpoints, they are no longer of sound mind and cannot be trusted with the care of your children.

Strip away all the educational jargon, fancy slogans, and “expert” advice, and the Wauwatosa Human Growth and Development curriculum, or Comprehensive Sex Education, is filth, disturbing, and WRONG.

This is one former teacher who will not “embrace the chaos.” I hope others will join me and stand with the children. They deserve better, and parents are entitled to know the truth.

God bless, Jim Krause

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Wisconsin Lawmakers Push Questions About IDs For Illegal Immigrants, Voting

(The Center Square) – Some Wisconsin lawmakers are trying to calm fears about illegal immigrants getting IDs and voting in the state.

The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections and the Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection held a hearing Thursday with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, some local election clerks and Fond du Lac County’s district attorney.

“We're not trying to get anybody into a bad spot here, or in a corner, or make accusations on that level,” Sen. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, said. “We want our clerks, who are already stressed enough, to know that we are here to be there as an assist to them.”

Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, said he wants to make sure voters have faith in Wisconsin’s electoral process.

“This is one of the topics that hit our inboxes quite a bit the last three months or so,” Krug added. “We thought it’s pretty important just to vet it out, to get all the information out to the public.”

The Wisconsin Elections Commission was invited to Thursday’s meeting but didn’t attend because commissioners were having a meeting of their own. But that left lawmakers’ questions unanswered.

Wis-DOT Deputy Secretary Kristina Boardman said Wisconsin is known as a strict voter ID state.

“I want to make very clear that Wis-DOT is required to provide free identification cards for U.S. citizens that request them for the purposes of voting, and that to be eligible for that free identification card one must be a U.S. citizen and at least 17 years of age,” Boardman said. “Wis-DOT staff do not determine voter eligibility or register anyone to vote. Someone who has a Wisconsin ID or a driver's license is eligible to register to vote online, and that information will be confirmed with Wisconsin DMV systems to ensure that the information entered for voter registration is consistent with the DMV's records

Boardman said in Wisconsin, less than a fraction of one percent of ID requests are fraudulent.

“We put together [a] case activity report, assemble all of the documentation that we have, we have the investigator that had the case pull that together, and we do refer that to law enforcement so that they can take whatever action is appropriate,” Boardman added. “We note what statutes we believe may have been violated. And then it's up to law enforcement to take action.”

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Senate Republicans Override Evers’ Vetoes

(The Center Square) – On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate voted to override nine vetoes from Gov. Tony Evers, including the vetoes that scuttled PFAS clean-up money, millions of dollars that were earmarked for hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls and a plan that would allow advanced practice registered nurses to work more independently.

“The legislature has passed hundreds of bills to solve problems facing Wisconsin businesses and families. Most of these bills were signed into law, but many were vetoed by a governor more focused on politics than policies that help everyday Wisconsinites,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said Tuesday. “Overriding the governor’s obstructive vetoes is the last, best way to address these critical issues.”

The override votes came one day after Evers sued the legislature over nearly $200 million that is attached to some of his vetoes.

Most of that money is the $125 million that’s supposed to go toward PFAS clean up in Wisconsin.

“For the fifth time this legislative session, I voted to provide Wisconsin families with the largest investment in clean drinking water in state history – five more times than every Democrat legislator in this state combined. The bill that Gov. Evers vetoed (SB 312) would have created a grant program that targets this critical funding to areas of the state most heavily impacted by PFAS contamination while protecting innocent landowners from financial ruin,” Sen Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg, said.

Evers has accused the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee of obstructing his plans to clean up Wisconsin’s drinking water, and of delaying his other actions across the state.

LeMahieu said Evers is simply playing the game.

“While Gov. Evers plays politics, the legislature will continue to do the right thing on behalf of the people of our state,” LeMahieu added.

Senate Democrats responded with game-playing accusations of their own.

“Coming in to do all these veto overrides was clearly a stunt to try to appeal to voters ahead of the fall election,” Den. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said. “Clearly Republicans were hearing from things in their district and wanted political cover. I don't think they got political cover today. I think what they got was people realizing just how afraid they are.”

But Tuesday’s veto overrides are largely symbolic.

While Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate have a veto-proof majority, Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly do not.

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Trump Holds Lead Over Biden Heading Toward November

With less than half a year until the 2024 presidential election, former President Donald Trump holds a sizable lead over incumbent President Joe Biden in several swing states.

While the overall national polling varies and shows a tighter race, Trump holds significant leads in several swing states.

According to Real Clear Politics, Trump leads in a slew of key battleground states like Arizona (+5.2), Georgia (+4.6), Michigan (+0.8), Nevada (+6.2), North Carolina (+5.4), Pennsylvania (+2.0), and Wisconsin (+0.6).

Other polling has shown Trump with a dominant lead in the Sun Belt while performing less well against Biden in some rust belt swing states.

“As the old saying goes, good gets better and bad gets worse, and it’s clear President Biden is in bad shape right now,” Colin Reed, a Republican strategist, former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and co-founder of South and Hill Strategies, told The Center Square. “Five and a half months is an eternity in politics, and there’s theoretically still time to right the ship, but it’s getting late early for the president, especially when Father Time remains undefeated and doubts about his age continue to grow. “

According to the Real Clear Politics’ national polling average, Trump leads Biden 46.1% to 44.9%.

A New York Times poll released this week showed leads for Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania but slightly trailing Biden in Wisconsin, raising concerns among supporters.

Trump’s lead has been in large part fueled by minority voters flocking to his side.

Meanwhile, Biden’s approval rating has plummeted since taking office. While that is not unusual for incumbents, Biden’s approval is lower than recent presidents.

Gallup recently released polling data showing that in the 13th quarter of Biden’s presidency, he averaged a 38.7% approval rating, worse than Trump at the same time in his term.

“None of the other nine presidents elected to their first term since Dwight Eisenhower had a lower 13th-quarter average than Biden,” Gallup said.

Axios reported this week that Biden and his team think the polls don’t represent Americans’ actual feelings and that the president’s position is strong.

“They're still 50% (well 45%) to win, per betting markets,” pollster Nate Silver wrote on X. “But Biden has been behind Trump in polls for a year now. His approval is in the tank, and voters have been clear they think he's too old. If Trump wins, history will not remember Biden kindly.”

Meanwhile, Trump spends valuable campaign time in a series of court appearances for his myriad of federal prosecution court dates.

“I’m under a gag order,” Trump told reporters after a court appearance Tuesday. “Nobody has actually seen anything like it ... I'm beating him in every poll and I have a gag order, so I think it's totally unconstitutional."

Republicans have blasted Biden for Trump’s prosecution, accusing Biden of using the Justice Department against his political opponent.

“Despite Far Left Democrats’ illegal election interference, President Trump is beating Joe Biden in the polls!” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., wrote on X Tuesday. “Voters see right through the sham Biden Trials and know President Trump is the best choice for president.”

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